Lisbon/St. Dominic quarterback Seth Leeman shows the crowd the Gold Ball after the Greyhounds beat Bucksport 28-8 to win the Class D title on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Chris Kates hasn’t played quarterback for the Greyhounds in 15 years, but he showed he could still elude the rush when fellow Lisbon alumni Tyler Halls and Tanner Mattson chased him a good 20 yards around the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf hoping to douse him with the Gatorade bucket in celebration of the Greyhounds’ 28-8 Class D state championship victory over Bucksport on Saturday in Portland.

Much like when he was in uniform, Kates’ pursuers never got a clean shot at him, and he was able to stay relatively dry and just soak in the satisfaction of Lisbon’s 11th state championship and first since 2006.

“It feels great. It’s the first one I’ve been a part of, so I’m really excited,” Kates said. “I’m real happy for these kids. The kids earned it in the offseason.”

Lisbon, which also includes players from St. Dominic Academy, went into the season figuring to be in the mix in the post-Wells Class D South. But they faded into the background as a 2-2 start coincided with fast starts by rivals Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale and Spruce Mountain.

“It’s always hit or miss at small schools. We lost a lot of kids last year and we weren’t really sure how some of those kids were going to respond,” Kates said. “I am really proud of these seniors. These kids developed into some really good football players.”

Kates and his staff used a 49-14 loss to the Ramblers that dropped the Greyhounds to 2-2 as a wake-up call and had faith that the 12 seniors on the roster wouldn’t allow the team to stay mired in mediocrity.

“Everyone overlooked us at the beginning of the season and had a legitimate reason to at the time. We had a bad first half of the season,” Kates said. “I am pretty happy with how they put their foot down and said, ‘This isn’t how our senior season is going to go.’ We got back after it and got back to basics.

“I think the Winthrop game was a real wake-up call for us,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Riley Quatrano said. “We came in, I don’t want to say cocky, but we knew we had a lot of talent and we were almost expected to win games. Once Winthrop pounded us, we knew we had to grind and get to work.”

A tough schedule that included losses to last year’s Class C South champion Fryeburg Academy and this year’s C South finalist York helped the Greyhounds find their stride when it mattered most.

“With the current playoff format, I’ve said all along that I don’t mind crossing over to Class C teams,” Kates said. “Even if you lose those games, most likely you’re going to make the playoffs because so many teams make it, so I think it helps playing tougher teams over the course of the year. Our record might not have reflected it early in the season, but I think our kids got better every single week.”

The Greyhounds did get better and started getting the results they wanted on the scoreboard once October started. But even though they were winning, they still weren’t getting respect.

“Then we saw the whole media and they didn’t pick us to win, like, any games,” Quatrano said.

“We kind of played it up a little bit,” Kates said, “but I think the kids were smart enough to know there were reasons why they weren’t picking us until we started to elevate our play.”

They didn’t just elevate their play, they became a more well-rounded team. Led by Quatrano, Seth Leeman and Robbie Dick, the secondary shut down opposing passing games and forced game-changing turnovers. In the playoffs, the speed of Quatrano and Dick at receiver, Leeman at quarterback and Daytona McIver at running back emerged as consistent big-play threats to complement the tough inside running of Cam Bourget and Justin Le.

“We haven’t necessarily been a big-play team over the course of the season,” Kates said. “The past couple of weeks we’ve been popping some. But we’ve generally been a grind-it-out team.”

But like Hall and Mattson trying to chase down Kates, just when observers and opponents thought they had Lisbon figured out, the Greyhounds showed they were a crafty, cagey lot.

“All season we have been underdogs pretty much every game,” Leeman said, “and just to prove everyone wrong and show them that we are the best team is a great feeling.”

SAINT AMONG GREYHOUNDS

Two years ago, Robbie Dick was a sophomore breaking new ground as the first St. Dom’s student to play varsity football for Lisbon.

Asked if he could have imagined then that he would be leaving his final game with a golden football trophy in his hands, the senior speedster replied, “No.” But he quickly demonstrated that he had the Greyhound mentality all along.

“We’ve been underdogs all year, but we just kept driving and fighting,” he said.

When the schools initially announced their agreement to add St. Dom’s students to Lisbon, Dick was one of two Saints to join. Although he had to battle through injuries to stay on the field, he never regretted the decision to join, and never felt like an outsider.

“I was blessed with an opportunity to come here and they took me in,” Dick said.

As a wide receiver and defensive back, the speedy senior played a crucial role in the Greyhounds winning the state championship, and he hopes he left another legacy in the process. He was among four Saints on the roster on Saturday, along with freshmen Ethan Berube and Colby Levasseur and sophomore Kevin Gallic. Dick hopes winning a state championship will inspire more of his fellow Saints to join join the Greyhounds in the future.

“That’s the goal. Maybe more will be here,” he said.

Staff writer Adam Robinson contributed to this report.


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